PRICE & JOY: Jack It Up

Published September 27, 2008

Many among us don`t want to lose out on the wonderful opportunity to rip people off in Ramazan. We create an artificial price hike, raise the prices to double and triple for a windfall profit... because who knows when the chance to `hit the hardest where it hurts the most` will come again.

The other day, complying with the demands of my home minister (commonly referred to as the better-half for reasons best known to those who coined the word) I detoured on my way home to run a few errands and to oblige; the grocery list given by her to me before returning home had to be taken care of.

While waiting in the queue at the checkout counter I saw the shopkeeper stuffing in heaps of goodies in bags for the Lady in Red before me. She seemed to have come straight from the sets of a Bollywood film (I refrain here much to my own dislike for not saying Lollywood out of sheer respect for all the time and energy she must have put before the deceptive mirror). She took out wads of rupees, literally throwing it on the counter.

I was bewildered whether it was an arrogant display of wealth or protest against the sum demanded by the teller! Meanwhile the man at the cash counter quickly billed my modest purchase and rolled out the bill. I pulled out my wallet and while glancing at the receipt I froze midway and exclaimed in an excited tone that those heaps of goods weren`t mine; they belonged to Mrs Midas (Lady in Red) and that he had charged me for her shopping by mistake!

The shopkeeper gave me a condescending look and responded curtly that the bill belonged to me. I stared at the amount again. It was about 50 per cent higher than what I had paid for the same items two days back! How possibly bizarre and ridiculous could this get. I asked the shopkeeper politely, “Have the pulses and bread become gold-plated this time round?” The shopkeeper smiled and replied “Ramazan Mubarak”!

Of course, as soon as the Ramazan moon is sighted by the Ruet-i-Hilal committee you see all shopkeepers pull out their placards of `Haza Min Fazl-i-Rabbi`! Come Ramazan and the `fazl` is found in abundance for the shopkeepers, fruit and vegetable vendors.

We call ourselves Muslims, yet we don`t want to lose out on this wonderful opportunity to rip people off in the holy month of Ramazan. We create an artificial price hike, raise the prices to double and triple to earn a windfall profit... because who knows when the chance to `hit the hardest where it hurts the most` will come again.

As a student of economics, I have a serious complaint against my lecturers and professors at university who did not teach me the direct co-relationship between the economic concept of `inflation` and the Islamic concept of `fasting` in Ramazan. Both concepts tend to move in tandem.

The advent of Ramazan heralds the `price curve` to move at 90 degrees on the price-v-stock availability graph! As the price curve moves upwards, the `stock` curve moves downwards; its climax being empty shelves and ballooning warehouses! The authorities concerned must direct the universities across Pakistan to introduce `Ramazan and inflation` as a research subject at post-graduate level to allow for studies to establish the dynamics of the co-relationship.

The entire nation adorns a garb of piety from the evening of the first day of Ramazan till Chand Raat. Television channels constantly broadcast religious sermons, messages of ibadat and self-development.

Come to think of it, why should we make the lives of our fellow beings comfortable? Do we get paid for it? We follow the old adage of `opportunity doesn`t knock twice`... of course Ramazan comes only once a year!

Western society has a lot to learn from us Muslims; they don`t quite understand the essence of unity, do they? Like naïve creatures they actually lower their prices around Christmas time and go on a complete slash of prices right after Christmas. These people actually want consumers to afford the luxuries of life and celebrate with their loved ones. It seems like they haven`t learnt their lessons of a capitalist society well enough. No wonder people in that part of the world live longer and are hideously obese!

We know the dynamics of our capitalist society and we end up adding significant revenue to the economy and to the amount of the GDP growth we attain in this one month -- we can`t do that in the whole year even if we work hard day in and day out! Besides, we are practical and smart. We don`t want our nation to suffer from obesity, post-excessive iftar consumption of all the samosas, pakoras and jalebis. Else we`ll end up depositing fats in our pulmonary arteries and that is going to restrict blood flow to the heart big time. And around the same time we don`t want to be running after heart specialists who would charge you double or triple for your treatment (count the amount of Eidi too!) and give you a heart attack.

Also, it will save us from developing pot bellies followed by painsful liposuction later! So factually speaking, the month of Ramazan is really a blessing for us especially when we have considerate economic agents. The price spiral is quite logical in the long run. Imagine if western society had Ramadan as part of its faith; it would have all been patients of heart disease!

Without doubt, our Omniscient Creator knew what we would do to ourselves. That is why He blessed us with such considerate fellow beings.

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